European Interest

EU-wide rules to protect consumers sold a faulty product

Flickr/Elaine Smith

The European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee approved a single set of rules to ensure consumers making a purchase online or at their local store obtain the remedies they are entitled to if they buy a defective product.

With 30 votes in favour, five against and one abstention, the draft law on the sale of tangible goods aims to break down barriers arising from differences in national contract laws, which hinder cross-border trade. It harmonises certain contractual rights, such as the remedies available to consumers if a product does not perform well or is defective and the ways to use those remedies.

MEPs want to guarantee that the consumer has free choice between having it repaired or replaced, free of charge. They also want the consumer to be entitled to an immediate price reduction or termination of the contract and to get his/her money back in certain cases.

In order to ensure a higher level of consumer protection, the MEPs agreed that EU member states may maintain or introduce in their national laws provisions on remedies for “hidden defects” and on a short-term right to reject (terminate the contract),

Also, for up to one year following the purchase, the MEPs want to reverse the burden of proof so that the buyer would not need to prove that the good was faulty at the time of delivery.

“Wherever in Europe a consumer is buying his product, they should be entitled to the same rights,” said Pascal Arimont (EPP, BE), who is steering this legislation through Parliament. “And with this draft piece of legislation, we are not only ensuring a high level of consumer protection, we are also taking it to the next level.

“However, harmonised consumer sales law rules do not only imply more consumer protection,” he added. “They also ensure a level-playing field for businesses, by giving them more legal certainty and confidence to engage in cross-border sales. By tearing down legal barriers, we support our very small companies in particular, allowing them to get their fair share of e-commerce next to giants such as Amazon.”

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